The Lazy Unemployed

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

When I was growing up, I knew a handful of kids who didn’t want to work.  And they didn’t.  They sponged off of the largess of the rich, skating through school doing the least possible work, getting arrested, doing drugs.  And when they came of age, they didn’t work at all.  They just had their parents fly them to Aspen, or send them to party colleges.
It was a tragic sight to see.
Meanwhile, my lower-class buddies struggled like hell to get by.  The sons of truckers and store clerks told me, flat-out, “I will not go on unemployment.”  And they didn’t, though they had to take some pretty shitty jobs to get by.
The reason I say this is that a recent study has showed there’s no connection between the benefits someone receives from the government and their desire to work.  None.  And yet there’s all this fury over the lazy poor, sucking cash from the government, as though the poor are poor because they’re lazy.
No.  I’ve known some lazy people in my time, and there’s no laziness like a heritage kid with a room full of videogames.
Fact is, some percentage of every group are lazy.  Has nothing to do with wealth, which is often – not always, but often – a function of luck.  The lazy rich kids are still a drain on private society, from parents who usually come to loathe them, but they remain a drain.
The point is that laziness is not the same as poverty.  Nor does laziness cause poverty.  Some of the hardest-working people I’ve known were single mothers working three crappy jobs to try to stitch together enough funds for an apartment, and okay, Mister CEO, maybe you also put in sixteen-hour days but I bet those days aren’t spent unpacking trucks.  In my experience, the poor are a lot less lazy than the rich, because you really can’t afford to be that lazy when you’re poor.
And none of that’s to say we shouldn’t try to weed out the people gaming the system for government benefits.  We should.  But there’s a perception that the majority of those poor people are all naturally trying to sponge off the rich, mainly because we know poor people are lazy, and the government is an easy way for lazy people to get money, and as such we’d better crack down on these bastards because the sooner we kick the legs out from under them the stronger they’ll be.
No.  Some poor people are lazy.  Some rich people are lazy.  The sooner you internalize that poverty is not synonymous with laziness, the better you’ll actually help poor people. Assuming that is your goal.


  1. Mark D
    Nov 18, 2013

    I’m have to say I’m a bit surprised by this article in the Independent, because I glanced over the article that is mentioned briefly, and (unless I went over it too quickly) that article does not say anything about the relationship between unemployment and laziness. Instead it’s about the relationship between happiness (at a national level) and unemployment benefits, which is found to be nonexistent. The author does say that less unemployment benefits do not make people less happy, and as such not more likely to find a job, but that statement is more of an opinion and not backed up by his research.
    That’s not to say you don’t have a point, those rich kids sound pathetic and there are a lot of people that are involuntarily unemployed.

  2. Jay
    Nov 20, 2013

    Without going into research I am not familiar with; entrenched multigenerational poverty is not an issue of laziness. Having just spent a year working in an incredibly disadvantaged area, one of the most startling observations was how much effort went into surviving, how many skills we take for granted were absent and how scared people are. Thank you for writing this.

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